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The aim of the study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) versus posterolateral fusion (PLF) in degenerative lumbar spondylosis.A systematic literature review was performed to obtain randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies (OSs) of TLIF and PLF for degenerative lumbar spondylosis. Trials performed before November 2015 were retrieved from the Medline, EMBASE, Cochrane library, and Chinese databases. Data extraction and quality evaluation of the trials were performed independently by 2 investigators. A meta-analysis was performed using STATA version 12.0.Two RCTs and 5 OSs of 630 patients were included. Of these subjects, 325 were in the TLIF and 305 were in the PLF group. Results showed that TLIF did not increase the fusion rate based on RCTs (relative risk [RR] = 1.06; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.95–1.18; P = 0.321), but increased it based on OSs (RR = 1.14; 95% CI: 1.07–1.23; P = 0.000) and overall (RR = 1.11; 95% CI: 1.05–1.18; P = 0.001) as compared with PLF. TLIF was able to improve the clinical outcomes based on 1 RCT (RR = 1.33; 95% CI: 1.11–1.59, P = 0.002) and overall (RR = 1.19; 95% CI: 1.07–1.33; P = 0.001), but not based on OSs (RR = 1.11; 95% CI: 0.97–1.27; P = 0.129) as compared with PLF. There were no differences between TLIF and PLF in terms of visual analogue scale, Oswestry Disability Index, reoperation, complications, duration of surgical procedure, blood loss, and hospitalization.In conclusion, evidence is not sufficient to support that TLIF provides higher fusion rate than PLF, and this poor evidence indicates that TLIF might improve only clinical outcomes. Higher quality, multicenter RCTs are needed to better define the role of TLIF and PLF.